American Athletic Conference
Not entirely unlike the nation that provides its namesake, the American Athletic Conference was born from an ideal in which members with ambitious goals are provided with the means to succeed in their quests for excellence.
With roots that extend to three conferences, the American Athletic Conference membership in 2014-15 consists of 11 institutions: the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, East Carolina University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, the University of South Florida Southern Methodist University, Temple University, Tulane University and the University of Tulsa.
The 2015-16 season sees the U.S. Naval Academy join the ranks in football only.
Under the leadership of commissioner Mike Aresco, The American, which operated as the Big East Conference from 1979 to 2013, has immediately taken a place at the forefront of Division I athletics, with schools that have played in four Bowl Championship Series games, won four NCAA men's basketball titles since 1999, and won nine NCAA women's basketball championships since 1995.
Two American Athletic Conference football teams were ranked in the top 15 of the final 2013 Associated Press poll. Five were selected for bowl games, including UCF, which won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 10 nationally. The conference produced 14 players who received All-America recognition by a major outlet.
The American had four players chosen in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, trailing only the SEC and the ACC among FBS conferences. UCF quarterback Blake Bortles highlighted a group of 12 American Athletic Conference players chosen when he was taken No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The success of The American in Year 1 was not limited to the gridiron. UConn won NCAA titles in both men's and women's basketball. The conference had the best postseason winning percentage of any league in men's basketball, while The American produced top-10 teams in baseball, men's soccer and men's golf and sent half of its participating teams to the NCAA Softball Championship.
The American Athletic Conference holds television partnerships with ESPN and CBS Sports which will give the conference unprecedented national exposure. The football portion of the contract, which begins in the 2014 season, calls for nearly 90 percent of conference-controlled games on national broadcast or national cable platforms. The first American Athletic Conference Football Championship, which will be played in 2015, will be carried either on ABC or ESPN on Championship Saturday.
In men's basketball, the television deal calls for all conference-controlled games to be televised, with more than 63 percent slotted for national broadcast or national cable - a minimum of 107 games. The entire postseason tournament will be televised, including the championship game, which will be either on ABC or ESPN. Sixty percent of the American's women's basketball games will be carried on either national cable, regional sports networks or ESPN3.
American Athletic Conference teams will have access to the pinnacle of college football's postseason structure. An American representative would be chosen for the College Football Playoff semifinals if it is among the top four teams following the regular season. Otherwise, the league would place its champion in either the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl if it is ranked higher than the champions of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt Conference.
Additionally, The American has announced primary or secondary partnerships with 12 bowls for the next six-year cycle, ensuring multiple annual matchups against the nation's top conferences and providing desirable postseason destinations to member institutions and their fans.
The American Athletic Conference administers to its membership from a state-of-the-art office located in Providence, R.I. The location of the conference headquarters - just steps from the city's Amtrak station and 10 minutes from T.F. Green International Airport - gives the conference easy access to its member schools.
The conference headquarters is equipped with a complete video production studio, serving as the home of the American Digital Network, and small- and large-scale meeting rooms to accommodate the many coaches' and administrators' meetings held on-site each year.